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"Recent studies have projected that India will face an unprecedented scale of urbanisation 350 million Indians will move to cities by 2030. This number is likely to double to 700 million by 2050. This is 2.5 times the size of the US's present population and will be the largest urban movement in the world. This implies that every minute during the next 20 years, 30 Indians will leave rural India for settling in urban areas. Management guru C K Prahalad had emphasised the imperative need for India to create 500 new cities to accommodate and provide a better quality life to its migrating people. Otherwise every existing city will become a slum when India becomes 75 in 2022.

Cities are centres of growth, innovation and creativity. In today's world, it is not countries but cities that compete for resources and investment. The GDPs of New York and Tokyo are at par with India's GDP. Not a single Indian city figures in the top 100 cities of the world. Mumbai ranks 114 th and Delhi a dismal 214 th . The future of India's growth process lies in the dynamism and vibrancy of its cities. In India, farming accounts for more than 58% of its workforce but accounts for only 14.2% of GDP. Agriculture can sustain a growth rate of 3% while the Indian economy must grow at 9-10% to lift vast segments of its population above the poverty line. No country in the world has grown on a sustained basis for long periods on the back of its agricultural sector. It is therefore inevitable that people will migrate from rural India to towns and cities.

India, like China, has been a reluctant urbaniser. India's freedom movement and Gandhian worldview were rural development oriented with the village being a self-sustained economic unit. Similar was the case with China's peasantry-led revolution. In the early 1970s, China realised that its economic growth and employment creation could not be achieved through the agricultural sector. It recognised that urbanisation was an essential feature of economic development and a major component of industrialisation and modernisation.

For China, economic development was, in essence, about shifting people from sustenance farming to manufacturing, and urbanisation was the spatial manifestation of this shift. As a policy, it adopted rapid planned urbanisation with manufacturing as the key locomotive. The development of new cities and expansion of existing ones has been a dominant feature of China's growth in the last three decades. Starting with the deve-lopment of a planned city in Suzhou in partnership with Singapore, China has gone ahead to develop a large number of new cities through a successful business model of monetisation of land values. In fact, mayors have been competing with each other to create new cities and successful mayors have gone on to rise rapidly in the Communist Party hierarchy.

In sharp contrast, in post-Independence India the only cities we have created are the capital cities of Chandigarh and Gandhinagar. The only major urban scheme India has launched in its entire planning process is the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. A recent report has highlighted that by 2020, India will be facing a housing shortage of 30 million dwelling units, 200 million water connections will be required, 350 million people will have to be given access to sewage, 160 GW of power generating capacity will have to be added and the number of vehicles on roads will increase fivefold. There is, therefore, an overriding need to rejuvenate and revitalise India's existing towns and cities and create new greenfield cities. The cost of not doing anything will be enormous and would seriously retard India's growth process

While India is a late starter, it has the significant advantages of being able to use technology to leapfrog stages of development and learn from good practices in other parts of the world. When cities were made in America, gas and water were cheaply available. Vertical utilities were created and cities were made for cars and not people. Today, digital technology enables us to create intelligent and smart cities with a central command room horizontally managing power, water, transportation and public safety. We need to create cities which are compact, dense and vertical, evolve along efficient mass transit systems and encourage cycling and walking.

Most of the lessons of sustainable urbanisation emerge from Asian countries. A great example is Kitakyushu in Japan which, post-World War II, was the most polluted city of the world and is today a unique example of pollution control, recycling, green technology and clean environment. Singapore is an example of innovative integrated water management approaches using reclaimed water, recycling and desalination. In 2010, 30% of its supply of water came from reclaimed water, 20% from collected rainfall and 10% from seawater desalination. Water is therefore affordable, efficient and of high quality. Yokohama has reduced waste generation by almost 38.7%, leading to a saving of $1.1 billion of capital cost, otherwise required for installing incinerators. Its waste reduction between 2001-07 resulted in a reduction of 8,40,000 tonnes of CO {-2} emissions.

As India urbanises, it will face severe challenges. But there are huge opportunities for sustainable growth which can have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of the expected 700 million urban citizens."


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